When people speak of Delhi, they usually speak of
the citys imposing Mughal and colonial buildings, its corridors
of power, its great bazaars, its universities, its personalities and
so on. Very rarely do they speak of the citys spiritual
significance. Why it should be so, is easy to understand. Its
importance in other spheres of the life of India, outweights its
religious importance. That is not to say that the religious places of
Delhi are not important enough; on the contrary, they are religious
places of Delhi are not important enough; on the contrary, they are
of monumental importance and worthy f as much adoration and devotion,
as any of the greatest in the country. True to the secular
principles of the constitution of India, there are temples from every
faith in Delhi Given below is a selection.
Located very near the inter state bus terminus, on
the same side of the river, St.James Churah at Kashmere Gate is an
unexpected haven of peace amidst the noise, smoke and dust of the old
city that surrounds it. Consecrated in 1836, it has the distinction
of being the first Christian church in Delhi and is a remarkable
example of colonial architecture. As one enters the churah, one
invariably steps on the grave of Col.James Skinner, the man who built
the church, just as he had wished it. Let devout Christians trample
over the mortal remains of the chief of sinners. Once within one is
transported back in time to colonial India. Two exquisite stain glass
windows (made in England) dominate the spacious hall lined with
carved mangowood pews. All the fixtures including the church organ
but accepting the prayer books date back to the last century. One can
easily visualize the Skinner family sitting in the front row in the
pew that still bears their name.
Col. James Skinner was a very well known military
personality of British India. Born of mixed parentage (half Rajput
and half English), he rose to great heights of fame at the head of
his cavalry regiment Skinners Horse which till today remains one of
the most elite regiments of the Indian army.
Like the church, the gurdware Sisganj too is located
in a most unlikely surroundings; at Chandani Chowk the biggest and
busiest market in north India. It is built at the spot where Guru
Tegh Bahadur, the 7th of the 10 spiritual teacher-leaders
of Sikhs was beheaded at the order of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675.
Swathed in pearl white marble and golden domes the tragic-sacred
spot exudes a rare feeling of devotion from not only Sikhs but also
Hindus and anyone else who might come. A constant stream of people,
with reverence writ large over their person, passes through the
richly decorated hall, prostrating before the sacred spot and
stopping for a while to listen to Shahbad Gurbani (Sikh devotional
songs) being sung by traditional gurdware singers. Guru Tegh Bahadur
became a martyr to the causes of an individuals right to practise the
religion of his own choice.
Laxmi Narayan Mandir also known as Birla Mandir,
this temple has been included in this selection for its preminent
position in the realm of contemporary Hindu temple architecture.
Spread out over a huge complex, it looks like a little citadel of
temples, with several domes gracing the skyline. Enshrined within are
all the major deities of the Hindu pantheon with Narayan (Vishnu, the
preserver) and his consort, Laxmi the goddess of wealth, presiding.
The meticulously clean spacious halls are tastefully decorated with
frescoes and plaster of Paris carvings. Several carved panels depict
the lives of great Hindu saints. A great bell, gifted by a Chinese
Buddhist delegation adorns the meditation hall. An unusual temple,
where people come not to make a ritualistic worship but for Darshan,
to be blessed by merely seeing the images of the Gods. A tour of
Delhis houses of worship would be incomplete without a visit to
the Laxmi Narayan Mandir.
Located five kilometers from the center of the city,
Dargah Nizamuddin Aulia this is the capitals second most
important Muslim shrine after Jama Masjid. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, a
14th century sufi mystic saint, was the fourth in line of
the famous Chishtiya order of Sufism brought to India by khwaja
Moinuddin Chishti. The shrine, which was built soon after his death
in 1325, is the object of unstinted adoration by all who visit it.
All around, the area, which is named after him, speaks of the holy
saints presence. Many are the stories of miracles that the
great saint is said to have caused.
The Bahai, House of worship is the latest of the
great houses of worship in Delhi. Opened in 1986, it is one of the
seven great edifices that the Bahais have raised in different parts
of the world. The 47 metres high marble structure is inspired by the
lotus, the Hindu symbol of purity. It has nine doors because nine,
the highest digit, symbolizes comprehensiveness, oneness and unity.
There are no images or icons, just rows of marble topped seats for
the visitors to meditate in silence.
The above selection is obviously like the proverbial
drop-in-the-ocean of temples that abound in Delhi. Whatever one might
say about the people of Delhi one cant doubt their religious
fervour. Temple building is a continuous process; at any given time,
a score o more temples might be found in various stages of
construction. Even in the poorest slums, where the people have barely
enough to keep body and soul together, they find enough money time
and spare to give expression in stone wood and mortar to their